Monday, November 12, 2007

public vs private education

A neighbor stopped by last night, to let me know about a community project. Our neighborhood is adopting the local elementary school, Govans Elementary. We will be purchasing much needed supplies from a wish-list each teacher provided. In my case, this means baby wipes, disinfectant wipes, and sweat pants (I have a pre-K classroom for this time).

We are doing this for complicated reasons, many of which come down to guilt. We don't send our children to Govans. Almost exclusively, the neighborhood children attend private schools in the area. Govans is a poor, urban elementary school, attended mostly by the children in the adjoining neighborhoods.

Most of us feel bad for abandoning the public school system. We "believe" in public education, we feel it is important, but we don't act on our belief, at least not in the form of putting our children into the school. And we realize that pulling our kids out makes the system weaker. We are involved parents who truly care about our kids getting the best education, i.e. we are exactly what the school needs to improve. The new principal of the school, when asked what the neighborhood could do to help, was pretty succinct. "Send your kids here."

If it were that simple, I would cheer. But. The school is terrible. It isn't working for the kids who are there now, and it wouldn't work for my child. I am unwilling to sacrifice my child's best interests for my principles.

So how do we get to the point where the public schools are good, and we don't need private schools to fill the gap? One of this country's greatest strengths is our free education, available to all children. It weakens us when we have a two-tier system, with good education for those who can afford it, and a poor education for everyone else. We need people with skills, with knowledge, in order for our country to thrive. How did we mess it up so badly? or has it always been this bad? and how do we fix it??

1 comment:

Kitten Herder said...

I am with you on your decision to send M to private school, and for more than just is particular set of academic needs. The success of a public school is not just about having brighter more affluent kids attending, it is also about being financially supported by the local government. Yes, if you and your neighbors sent your kids to that school, the school would get more of your volunteer hours and your loud more affluent voices raised in support of the school. However, that is only a small part of the issue.

And yes, putting brighter kids in the school often inspires the middle-of-the-road kids to achieve. However, it sometimes leaves the more challenged children in the dust. Alternatively, the teachers focus on the lowest-common-denominator, to the detriment of the brighter kids.

Taxpayers, regardless of whether they send their kids to public or private schools, need to make certain that local governments make public education a priority. While it may seem like a chicken/egg dilemma, better schools attract better students.

From personal experience with your city's public school system, in my youth, as a brighter student I was often bored, bored, bored. And I was in one of the better schools in the city. If my family could have afforded private school I would have gone.

You are doing a good thing. Rally your neighbors to lobby the City for better support of the schools. Even if you are not currently sending your kids there, you should have a voice on how the City spends your tax dollars. Who knows, if enough of the private school crew would lobby for the public schools, maybe the City would finally improve their baseline and encourage some spill back from the private system.